La Boulange launches at Starbucks

When we think about Starbucks, most of us think about coffee and beverages. Sandwiches, cookies, pastries and loaves have always been there too, but only one in three Starbucks customers ever buys food to go along with their latte.

In March, Starbucks set out to change this with the introduction of a new range of food products from San Francisco bakery, La Boulange.

This was the largest new product launch in Starbucks' Canadian history and the stakes were high.

Two key insights informed the strategy. First, while Starbucks customers are loyal, they can be resistant to change. Second, La Boulange bakery and its founder, Pascal Rigo, are well-known in the US for crafting authentic French pastries and breads. But in Canada, the brand was relatively unknown.

To prepare media and customers for the new food selection, La Boulange's Pascal Rigo and Starbucks Canada's Isabelle Hemond participated in a cross-country media tour a month before the launch. Pascal Rigo was the perfect spokesperson — a passionate businessman with the soul of an artisan, whose deep belief in his products made for compelling storytelling. His fluency in French also meant that he was ideal for media interviews from coast to coast.

The agency invited top-tier media and local influencers to exclusive meet, greet and tasting experiences with Rigo at local Starbucks cafés in Toronto, Montreal and Vancouver.

The second phase of the campaign focused on driving customers into stores and getting them excited to try the new products. This began with a news release and was supported with a heavy focus on broadcast and influencer relations. The agency partnered with local radio stations for gift card giveaways, co-ordinated influencer drops to create social buzz, and finally, delivered product drops to local broadcast outlets, along with b-roll and top-line information about the La Boulange launch.

The strategy was a success, more than doubling Starbucks' target KPIs, and landing a total of 280 stories and 111 million media impressions. The La Boulange pre-launch media tour catered to 50 media and influencers, and led to a mix of traditional and social media buzz across Canada.